The Cleveland Indians have been the best team in the AL Central for the last three seasons. For much of that time, the Indians have been one of the best teams in the American League.
During the 2018-2019 offseason, after another early playoff exit, Cleveland decided to undergo- or at least think about undergoing- major roster changes.
It seemed that everyone in the clubhouse was made available in trade talks.
Francisco Lindor’s name was not one of those names that was being thrown around in trade discussions.
Lindor, along with fellow infielder Jose Ramirez, has really become the cornerstone and the face of the Cleveland Indians franchise.
The Puerto Rican native made his MLB debut in June of the 2015 season in Detroit. In his first game, Lindor went 1-2 with a single. In 99 games played his rookie year, he hit .313/.353/.482 with 122 hits, 12 home runs, and 51 RBI.
This was just the beginning for the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Runner-Up.
Following a strong showing in ’15, Lindor came back to be the everyday shortstop for the Indians and helped lead them to within one game of a World Series title. He slashed .301/.358/.435 over 604 plate appearances.
His strengths stretched to the defensive side of the ball, too. He was close to the top in putouts and assists for shortstops and made the impossible plays look routine. Lindor was named a Gold Glove winner and the Platinum Glove winner, which is the highest award a defender can win.
Lindor’s improvement continued into the 2017 season. Everyone knew that the shortstop was able to make contact often and put the ball in play with ease, but he worked on his power and strength to really take his offensive game to the next level.
His homerun total increased by 18 and his slugging percentage went up by 70 points (.435 to .505).
Last season, 2018, may have been the three-time All-Star’s best season to date. He set a career-high in hits (183) and runs (129, most in the MLB), home runs (38) and RBI (92). He also set personal high-water marks in on-base and slugging percentages.
Lindor is a once-in-a-lifetime player, especially at the shortstop position. In a league that is filled with great shortstops (much like the NBA is filled with great point guards), a team needs a formidable one to be successful. Look at the likes of the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees. The list goes on and on.
Cleveland is firmly on that list with Lindor and Lindor is one of the 10, if not five, best shortstops in all of baseball.
That is why the Dolan’s, Mike Chernoff, and Chris Antonetti need to do all they can to keep Lindor past 2022. Some talks have already taken place between Lindor and the club, mainly after the 2016 season. The club reportedly offered Lindor an extension worth nearly $100 million that was turned down.
Outside of that, that have not been any discussions that the public knows about.
Jose Ramirez received an extension that kicked in last season and allows him to reach free agency in 2022 at the earliest.
Cleveland locked up one superstar, it is now time to go out and lock the other up. Once 2022 hits, and both Ramirez and/or Lindor are no longer with the Indians, bad baseball will be on the horizon.
The Indians are a mid-market team, yes, and do not like to break the bank on free agents or contract extensions. But the ball club has got to do that in order to keep Lindor on the shores of Lake Erie. There is no two ways around it.